Valarie Smith

Valarie Smith incurred enormous credit card debt during the ’90s when she lived in NYC and tried to see as many Broadway/ Off Broadway/ Off-Off Broadway plays as she could despite her pittance of a salary. She is a fervent believer in the Edward Albee quote, “If you’re willing to fail interestingly, you tend to succeed interestingly.” Her top five favorite productions (so far) are: True West (Circle in the Square Theatre, 2000), King Henry IV, Part One (Oregon Shakespeare Festival, 2017), We’re All Mad Here (Shaking the Tree, 2017), Six Degrees of Separation (Lincoln Center, 1991) and Richard II (BAM, 2016).


Regarding Henrys

Original Practice Shakespeare, known for its rowdy, audience-friendly live performances, dives into the "Henry" trio for three straight nights – online.

“It’s not your granddaddy’s Shakespeare.”

That’s how Jennifer Lanier, Original Practice Shakespeare co-artistic director, describes the company’s approach to producing the Bard. With limited rehearsal, onstage prompters and a rowdy audience, OPS is a throwback to how plays were put on in Shakespeare’s lifetime, while also offering modern, gender-fluid casting that not only allows the actor to pick which gender they want to perform in but sometimes gives the audience a say in it too.

“We’re an incredibly contemporary company that does things in a 16th century manner,” said Lanier.

High passion and sharp blades: Hotspurre & Company in Henry IV, Part 1. From left: Alec Lugo (Vernon), Jesse Waddell (Messenger), Amy Driesler (Worcester), Lauren Saville Allard (Hotspurre), Chris Murphy (Douglas). Photo: Tiffany Gilly-Forrer

OPS has been around since 2009, but this year, it’s mounting a new challenge: Not only will it perform the Henry trilogy on consecutive nights this coming weekend (without its usual live audience), but it’ll livestream the whole shebang on Facebook and YouTube. Henry IV, Part One will air on Friday, June 4; Henry IV, Part Two on Saturday, June 5; and Henry V on Sunday, June 6.


Seeking Refuge: Enjoy a live performance again

Shaking the Tree’s new multimedia installation offers the electricity of in-person theater in a safe viewing experience

Has the past year changed you? Humbled you? Brought you to your knees? 

Has it left you feeling helpless, lost, bereaved? 

Have you shocked yourself with your own strength, with the power you have to endure, to persevere and maybe, just maybe, to overcome?

If the answer to any of those questions is yes, then Refuge, a multimedia installation from Shaking the Tree Theatre, has something for you.

Communing with the goddesses: Take refuge. Photo: Brian Libby

Refuge is a unique performance experience consisting of 11 illustrated panels arranged in a circle, each dedicated to a different goddess (such as Our Lady of the Infinite Night Sky). You and your pod of up to five people sit within the Stonehenge-like circle and listen to audio-based (or, in a couple of cases, watch video-based) stories of these goddesses, each performed by a different person, as they share their wisdom, offer their consolations and remind us of our place in the universe. 


Better together: Stage & school

Artists Repertory Theatre and The Actors Conservatory join forces to create a new teaching and performing dynamic in Portland

Last month, Artists Repertory Theatre and The Actors Conservatory announced a creative alliance that will increase career training and educational opportunities, expand ART’s revenue model, and help generations of artists to exchange knowledge and share expertise.

The two organizations officially began collaborating four years ago, when The Actors Conservatory, a nationally accredited school for actor training, moved into ART’s building. But the relationship between the two organizations goes back much further.

THE ART OF LEARNING: An Occasional Series

“I started the conservatory 35 years ago,” said Beth Harper, founder and producing artistic director of TAC, “and all my professional work as an actor was with Artists Rep. So honestly, as an artist, I consider [ART] my artistic home.”

As conservatory students began appearing in ART shows, the two companies began sharing resources behind the scenes as well.

“Then the pandemic hit,” said Harper. “And we said, ‘How can we deepen this?’”

Dámaso Rodríguez, artistic director for Artists Repertory Theatre, outlined what he feels the alliance achieves for ART: “The chief benefit is different generations of artists working together, and what that does for the chemistry and the art that you’re making. That’s an exciting energy.”

As Harper put it, “You can’t buy experience. It’s a great opportunity for our students.”

Wyatt Hodgson, a second-year student at The Actors Conservatory, working on “The Vertical City,” a coproduction with Artists Rep. Photo: Shawn Lee


Top 10 things I learned about Chip Miller

Portland Center Stage’s Miller on dream projects and adjusting to the pandemic: “We are making something new and we are making it very, very fast.”

Chip Miller first became known to Portland audiences when they directed last season’s smash productions Redwood and Hedwig and the Angry Inch at Portland Center Stage at the Armory. But Miller and PCS Artistic Director Marissa Wolf go way back.

“Marissa is like family to me,” Miller said. “If she said, ‘Hey, I got a job in Antarctica running a theater, do you want to come with me?’ I’d say, ‘Yeah, I’ll get some coats.’”

Miller was born in Hartford, Connecticut, but moved to Kansas City, Missouri when they were six. It was there that their love of theater blossomed, and it was at Kansas City Repertory Theatre where Miller met Wolf.

Chip Miller: a life in the theater. Photo: Kate Szrom, courtesy of Portland Center Stage at The Armory.

In their most recent roles at KC Rep, Miller was artistic associate and resident director, and Wolf was associate artistic director. When Wolf was named artistic director of PCS in 2018, replacing Chris Coleman when he left to take over the Theatre Company of the Denver Center for the Performing Arts, Wolf brought Miller along for the ride, hiring them as an associate producer at PCS before naming them associate artistic director in July.

While live productions are on hold at The Armory, Portland Center Stage offers a robust calendar of events with the PCS Remix program, which features virtual shows, staged readings and more, as well as other workshops and discussions available online.

To learn more about Miller and find out how they’re navigating the pandemic’s choppy waters, read on.


Love Sugar Sex Magic

Portland Center Stage's online reading of Baruch Porras Hernandez’ 'Love in the Time of Piñatas' hits a cultural and theatrical sweet spot

Wow, did I enjoy this.

In the days leading up to the presidential election, I watched Portland Center Stage’s staged reading of Baruch Porras Hernandez’s Love in the Time of Piñatas online. My assignment: to evaluate how staged readings translate to a virtual format.

But almost as soon as Hernandez appeared on screen, emerging from a red velvet curtain in his bedroom while wearing a black mesh top, jacket festooned with streamers and glitter affixed to his beard, singing a song called “Down with the Trumps,” I forgot all that.

Baruch Porras Hernandez in Epic Party Theatre’s production of “Love in the Time of Piñatas” in December 2019. Photo: Robbie Sweeney/Courtesy Epic Party Theatre

“It’s my party and I’ll shake what I want to,” Hernandez began, go-go dancers accompanying him on either side of the screen, before the lyrics veered into something more somber. “Hello everybody, my name is Baruch,” he sang, “And if you’re like me, you’re terrified. I never thought it could get this bad. I never thought it could get so sad.”